Hannah Read is an Edinburgh-born singer, songwriter and fiddler, now resident in Brooklyn, New York, who is much in demand as a collaborator on both sides of the Atlantic. She will be known to some as a major contributor to the stellar group of British folk musicians who produced the stunning Songs Of Separation, which won Album Of The Year at the BBC Radio Folk Awards last year.
Hannah Read’s first full-length album, Way Out I’ll Wander, delivers a beautifully-crafted set of songs which deal elegantly, eloquently and honestly with universal themes of home, love and loss. The light-touch production and intimate arrangements allow Read’s pure and clear vocals (transatlantic, with pleasing traces of her Scots accent) to shine through, while subtle washes of strings, woodwind and yearning lap steel guitar add richness to her musical palette.
The opening song, Moorland Bare, sees Read providing a gently lilting vocal which sets Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetic imagery to her own hauntingly beautiful melody, creating an evocative sense of place. Ringleader is sung in warm and hushed tones, with gently soaring choruses and the first appearance of Read’s graceful fiddle, set against shimmering electric guitar. The elegant strings in the brief and aptly-titled Interlude provide a segue into I’ll Still Sing Your Praises, a bittersweet break-up song. Alexander is simply stunning, as rootsy guitar, atmospheric harmonium, rippling bass and traces of woodwind provide a backdrop to Read’s beautifully poignant and reverential tribute to an elderly war veteran of her acquaintance.
Read provides a suitably assertive vocal in She Took A Gamble, in which the bluesy guitar licks in the verses give way to sweeping strings in the breezy choruses. An extended and elegiac fiddle and guitar intro conveys Read’s sense of loss as it ushers in the title track, an achingly beautiful song about the passing of her beloved grandfather. Having dealt with break-up earlier in the album, Read charts the other end of the relationships spectrum in Boots, where she delights in the simple pleasures associated with new love. A series of delicious “ooh oohs”, carried along by woodwind flourishes, add to the refreshing nature of the song. The album finishes in style with Campsea Ashe, which has a freewheeling vibe and features some outstanding lap steel guitar work.
Hannah Read continues to enhance her reputation as a distinctive voice in contemporary roots music. The spirit of Laurel Canyon (Joni Mitchell in particular) is channelled in some of the songs and, if more contemporary reference points are needed, Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz (who provides backing vocals on this album) would not be wide of the mark.
Studded with songs of true depth and beauty, this is a very fine album and one which seems likely to garner Read much recognition on both sides of the Atlantic.
Way Out I’ll Wander will be released on 23rd February 2018 on Hudson Records.
For more information on Hannah Read, click here.